What Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal Means for the CDC
February 15, 2011
by Betsy McKay
Wall Street Journal
The federal government has invested billions of dollars since 2002 to help cities and states prepare to combat potential bioterror attacks, major disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies. Now, President Obama’s 2012 budget calls for paring some of that spending.
Funding for a public health emergency preparedness program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was cut by about $72 million below fiscal 2010 levels in the budget proposal. Those funds are used to help state and city public health departments monitor for potential outbreaks and threats, hire and train staff to respond and other activities.
The budget proposal notes that those investments are already paying off, with state and local health departments stronger than before — a notion backed in part by a CDC report issued last September.
But the cuts are being proposed at a time when preparedness dollars are already on the decline and state and local health departments have had to lay off thousands of staff since 2008, Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit organization that promotes disease prevention, tells the Health Blog. A proposed $59 million increase in funds for the Strategic National Stockpile means “we’ll have drugs and countermeasures and no one on the state level to distribute them,” he says.
The discretionary budget request for the CDC remains only about $19 million below that of fiscal 2010. But that’s because the cuts are compensated by $752 million for the CDC from a Prevention and Public Health Fund that wasn’t meant to fill budget holes and which some worry isn’t secure.
The fund was created by the health reform bill to strengthen public health programs and fight chronic diseases. It would replace cuts to the CDC budget like the elimination of a $100 million preventive health services grant program. But the fund was meant to augment existing money, not replace it, Levi says. And it has come under scrutiny in recent months from some members of Congress.
Even before Congress gets to the 2012 budget, the CDC faces an uphill battle to preserve its funding for fiscal 2011, with House Republicans proposing cuts of more than $755 million to the agency’s budget.
There are silver linings for the CDC: the 2012 budget proposes $58 million more to combat HIV/AIDS domestically. The CDC is restructuring chronic disease grants in a way it hopes will reduce costs while putting more money into programs to prevent disease, such as physical activity and healthier eating.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
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